SHOT-BY-SHOT BREAKDOWN AT 'DON'T MAKE A SCENE' BLOG
In the "Don't Make A Scene" column today at the blog Let's Not Talk About Movies, Yojimbo posted a compelling shot-by-shot, line-by-line breakdown of the church scene from Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. Here is an excerpt from Yojimbo's post:
Director Brian De Palma (one of those directors who never leaves anything to chance) shoots from just two angles*--both two-shots because the scene is about the two men and their needs: Ness' for Malone's help and expertise, and Malone for Ness' commitment. The first shot looks up at them from a forward pew, looking through their hands at their up-turned faces. In Malone's hands are his fob with his master key and a medal of St. Jude ("the patron saint of Lost Causes" "...and cops," as we'll find out later.), which swings like a guillotine at times in the scene. Ness' hands are folded together, as if in prayer, as if pleading. The other shot is more difficult to get--it required a split-focal lens that would keep both Ness and Malone in sharp focus despite their different proximities to the camera. Ness is in profile (an angle that connotes dismissal, or supplication) Malone is talking directly at Ness, and to the camera, and that angle is saved for the most dramatically charged speeches. Ness' face is soft, doughy, unsure. And Malone's is craggy, lined and in constant conflict--at points angry, pitying, weak, and hard. The men are talking about life and death--for themselves and the city of Chicago. Good intentions are not good enough. You have to do what needs to be done to win. To not win is to die. It's all or nothing. There is no "middle way." Commit or die. The scene begins with Ness looking at the medal in Malone's hands. It reaches its crux when Malone looks at Ness' praying hands. Both tell each men all they need to know.
Be sure to read all the way to the bottom, where Yojimbo relates a story about Sean Connery playing 18 holes of golf before filming his "advice" scene in two takes.